HAMBURG WELCOMES THE AIRBUS A380 “HOME”
Hamburg joins London as the world’s only locations with two airports where the Airbus A380 can be seen regularly. With one of the two daily Emirates flights between Helmut Schmidt Airport in Hamburg and Dubai becoming an A380 service, the world’s largest airliner is now regularly coming “back home”. A large share of the global A380 fleet, including all 106 that have been delivered to Emirates so far, have been delivered to customers from the Airbus site in Finkenwerder, Hamburg. The company’s decision in 2000 to make the city an A380 production site is seen as a significant milestone, boosting and announcing Hamburg’s ascent to the ranks of the world’s leading aviation locations.
With a maximal possible configuration of 853 seats, the Airbus A380 is the largest production airliner in the history of flight. For its daily A380 service between Hamburg and Dubai, Ermirates is using a three-class configuration with 516 seats, including 14 First Class suites and 76 Business Class flatbed seats. The cabin was completely installed at the Airbus factory in Finkenwerder, Hamburg, and before handover the aircraft was subject to a functional test lasting several hours in the skies over northern Germany.
Large sections of the fuselage are produced at the Airbus site in Finkenwerder, and the paintwork and cabin fitting for all Airbus A380 aircraft is carried out here. The vertical stabiliser for the A380 is produced at the Airbus factory in nearby Stade. Numerous suppliers from the Hamburg Metropolitan Region are also involved in the construction of the super-jumbo, including Diehl Aviation, providing equipment such as the internationally acclaimed shower cabin for the Emirates A380 First Class, VINCORION, providing an elevator for cabin trolleys, and Innovint, providing baby bassinets, magazine racks and other items.
Hamburg is the 61st city worldwide to be served with a scheduled A380 service. The most important A380 destinations include Dubai, London and Los Angeles. In order to handle the huge Airbus on a daily basis, Hamburg’s Helmut Schmidt Airport made a long-term investment in its ground handling infrastructure, including 750,000 euros for a third jet bridge to provide a direct link to the A380 upper deck.
“Hamburg is the third-largest city worldwide in the civil aviation sector. Over 300 companies with a total of more than 40,000 employees are active in this industry in Hamburg. The German Aerospace Center DLR and the ZAL Center of Applied Aeronautical Research give the city a leading role in Europe in the development of innovative aerospace technology. As an international commercial center and ‘Gateway to the World’, we place great importance on efficient, effective and reliable air transport,” says Hamburg’s First Mayor, Dr Peter Tschentscher. “The Airbus factory in Finkenwerder is involved in the final assembly of the A380. And now this largest Airbus airliner is taking off and landing at Hamburg Airport Helmut Schmidt every day.”
“For Hamburg, the A380 program represented the beginning of a new age. The choice of our region set the stage for many subsequent milestones in the development of this aviation center, such as becoming the largest production site for the Airbus A320 series and the construction of the ZAL Center of Applied Aeronautical Research,” says Dr Franz Josef Kirschfink, Managing Director of the Hamburg Aviation cluster. “We are thrilled that the A380 is now “coming home” on a daily basis, flying to Hamburg Airport, another key stakeholder here.”
The number of jobs in the aviation industry within the metropolitan region has climbed from 26,000 to more than 40,000 since the A380 programme was launched in the year 2000. Today, Hamburg is one of the three largest sites in the global civilian aviation industry. Whilst the A380 as flagship continues to be the “poster child” for the Airbus site, the greatest economic significance now lies with the A320 range. Final assembly takes place here on the banks of the Elbe for 50% of worldwide deliveries of this globally popular short and medium-haul airliner. The latest addition to the range is the A321LR, targeted at low-frequency long-haul routes. The region’s focus is on aircraft manufacturing, aircraft cabin development and the maintenance, overhaul and modification business.
stuck in the A380
Yes, from now on an Airbus A380 is landing in the Fuhlsbuettel, Hamburg every day. But the first journey any of these giants of the skies makes to Hamburg comes much earlier. The inaugural flight for every A380 is from the final assembly line in Toulouse to the Airbus factory in Finkenwerder, Hamburg. Here, the unpainted aircraft receives its first paint job in the airline livery, with a total of 531 kg of paint. And the cabin is fitted here too, including, for example, the Emirates First Class bathroom, delivered by Diehl Aviation, the Trolley Lift from Vincorion of Wedel on the opposite bank of the Elbe, and baby bassinets, wheelchairs and magazine racks from Innovint in Wandsbek, Hamburg.
And there are even some A380 components that return to Finkenwerder on the finished aircraft. The front and rear fuselage sections, for example, are initially assembled in Hamburg and shipped to France by water, along with the vertical stabiliser, manufactured in Stade (see info diagram). The landing flaps are from northern Germany, too, produced at the Airbus factory in Bremen. Other major components for Europe’s super jumbo originate in Spain, the United Kingdom and France.
Before a customer — Emirates, for example — can take possession of the aircraft, the functionality, particularly of the cabin and its fittings, is subject to a demanding and thorough test flight lasting several hours, departing from Finkenwerder and flying perhaps over the North Sea. The coffee machines and the in-seat touchscreens need to work when passengers board the A380, having paid good money to fly to the other side of the world. Handover then takes place in either Hamburg or Toulouse, depending on where the airline comes from. Emirates takes delivery of its A380s in the Juergen Thomas Delivery Centre on the Airbus premises in Finkenwerder.
Since the first delivery in 2007, more than 230 Airbus A380s have been delivered to 13 original customers. 240 airports around the world are equipped to handle an A380, and more than 60 cities have the world’s largest airliner in their scheduled timetables. With more than 100 examples in its fleet, Emirates is far and away the biggest customer.
Almost 15 years after its inaugural flight, the Airbus A380 still turns heads, even at the Airbus factory site in Finkenwerder. The vast aircraft is not the most important model here any more though. That honour goes to the bestselling A320 range, with 50% of global deliveries taking place in Hamburg. Without the A380 programme, though, the A320 would never have come here in this scale either.
It’s probably the most famous cabin element in the Emirates Airbus A380, but only very few passengers ever see it — the shower cabin in First Class on the upper deck of the super jumbo. As if the extensive space weren’t enough, First Class passengers also have the opportunity to freshen up with a shower before landing in a bathroom reminiscent of a spa.
This shower in the sky is exclusive to premium customers of Emirates and only available on the A380. This luxury cabin element was developed at the Diehl Aviation facility in Finkenwerder, Hamburg. The lavatories for the other A380 ticket classes are also provided by the same supplier. This large family company, based in the Franconia region of Germany, has been a supplier for the A380 programme since it was launched in the year 2000.
And as well as the on-board bathroom facilities, Diehl is also responsible on the Airbus A380 for cabin lining including baggage lockers, the entry area, the cabin management system and the complete lighting concept. This also includes the starry sky, with more than 8,000 LEDs in the cabin ceiling, available even to Economy Class passengers on Emirates flights.
The broad spectrum of Diehl products is not only found on the vast Airbus A380. Even passengers using the toilet on a domestic Vietnamese flight with an Airbus A320 get to go to a Diehl lavatory. And if you fly on board a Boeing “Dreamliner” from Chicago to London, you will be woken before landing by the Diehl LED lighting system and the atmosphere it creates. The systems provider supplies all the world’s major aircraft manufacturers and is also active in the so-called retrofit market, fitting new cabins to existing aircraft. And they work closely together with another major Hamburg player, too: Lufthansa Technik.
And on the subject of collaboration: Diehl Aviation is also one of the bigger research partners at the ZAL Center for Applied Aeronautical Research and has been building up a team for innovation in the cabin field there since the ZAL TechCenter was opened in 2016. In the first year, Diehl already managed to develop a concept together with Lufthansa Technik in a shared workshop that made it to the finalists of the Crystal Cabin Award — a self-service bar for cold drinks in the galley. So the on-board highlights are not just being developed for First Class.
Would anyone like to buy an “A”? Would you like a bronze finish, or maybe gold-plating? If you are focused on the small details in the aircraft cabin, you can’t get past Innovint. The mid-sized company based in Wandsbek, Hamburg, delivers just about everything that looks good or matters in the cabin. Airline logos and lettering (and even individual letters) for example, or cloth inlays in elaborately woven South American designs, or security equipment such as first aid kits.
The company celebrated its 40th birthday in 2017. Emirates has been a customer almost as long as it has been an airline. The business relationship started as long ago as 1987 when the recently established airline from the UAE was adding the Airbus A310 to its fleet of Boeing 727 and Airbus A300 aircraft.
And Innovint has been involved with the Emirates A380 from day one, too. Products to be found on the plane include solutions such as baby bassinets, a wheelchair especially designed for use on board, cloth connectors for the lift that carries cabin trolleys between the decks of the super jumbo, magazine racks made of flame-retardant plastic, and soap dishes. Elaborate ornamentation and special nuances of real gold are favourite touches of the airline and, thanks to a diverse network of suppliers, no problem for the team in Wandsbek.
The many details that Innovint takes care of for the A380 reflect the strength of Hamburg’s aerospace network. Soap dispensers manufactured by Diehl Aviation in Finkenwerder are supplied for the A380 bathrooms. Specially coated curtains connect elements of the trolley lift fom Vincorion in Wedel.
The family-owned company, established in 1977, describes itself as the global market leader for on-board baby bassinets and wheelchairs. And Innovint generates around half of its turnover by supplying airlines directly. 150 airlines take delivery of products from Wandsbek, including the entire Emirates fleet, of A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft. 30 percent of the turnover is generated with aircraft manufacturers themselves. This includes all the major names except Bombardier, including Irkut and COMAC.
The importance of the airline business for Innovint has grown significantly since the A380 programme was launched in 2000, according to CEO Manfred Groening. This was also a result of the more stringent conditions that Airbus imposed on its suppliers at the time, and which Innovint consciously decided not to sign up to. They still made it into the A380 programme, but they came from the customer side. The dispute with Airbus at the time didn’t have a negative impact on the company’s long-term success, either. In 18 years, Innovint’s turnover has tripled and its workforce has doubled to 40. As Groening explains, it made the company independent. In the meantime, the relationship with Airbus has become very productive again and they have returned to dealing directly with one another, he adds. “The A380 gave the region a real boost,” says Groening with confidence.
Today, the family-owned company can look proudly at the success of an aerospace research project being conducted jointly with the Hamburg University of Technology and composites manufacturer 3D Icom. Together, they are exploring the digitalisation of SMEs, with Innovint, once again there from the beginning, as the basis for the study.
The Airbus A380 is designed to carry up to 853 passengers. Even if this, the world’s biggest airliner, is “only” carrying 500 passengers, every A380 flight represents a logistic challenge. This applies especially to the catering. Hundreds of passengers in the different classes need to nourished and served for up to 16 hours. But where do you keep the dozens of trolleys that this requires?
The mechatronic business unit belonging to the Jenoptik Group and now operating under the brand name VINCORION has developed an ingenious solution at its site in Wedel, near Hamburg, to master the catering of the A380. A trolley elevator, hidden from passengers, passes through the cabin to the upper deck. The so-called Trolley Lift System operates similarly to a hotel service elevator: Depending on the phase of flight, the flight attendants get the trolleys they need (for example carrying appetisers and drinks) from storage and bring it up to a higher deck. Once catering is over, the trolleys, now empty or carrying rubbish, are taken down again. Compared to conventional aircraft types, the trolleys block less space in the galley. Korean Air Lines, for example, even offers its own duty free shop for passengers on its A380.
Since the Airbus A380 was launched, VINCORION has produced hundreds of lift systems at its production facility at the gates of Hamburg. With only a quarter of the Wedel workforce involved in aviation, the company has a broad foundation and is established as a supplier in both military and civilian sectors. Alongside Airbus civilian aviation, Boeing, Airbus Helicopters and the MRO business are also supplied on the banks of the Elbe. The company’s core business consists of two areas in civilian aviation: heated components and their management and composite components and assemblies, including radomes as well as the trolley lift.
VINCORION also supplies smaller components such as the drain masts on the outer wall of the Airbus A380. Of course they would like to produce even more Trolley Lift Systems for the A380, says Managing Director Dr Stefan Stenzel, looking at the plane’s sales figures. But the development of the components has already been worthwhile for VINCORION over the long term: the trolley lift has raised the company to a whole new level of expertise in the field of composites. The company’s long-term version is to make the leap from a component supplier to a system supplier.
For the A330neo line, VINCORION will in future be the exclusive supplier of a heated composite floor panel for the door and galley sector. The VINCORION aviation division has thus successfully combined two essential competences in one product. This is a new milestone on the strategic path on which the A380 trolley lift has already taken the company up to an important floor.